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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

6 He wondereth that they have so soon left him and the gospel, 8 and accurseth those that preach any other gospel than he did. 11 He learned the gospel not of men, but of God: 14 and sheweth what he was before his calling, 17 and what he did presently after it.

The Galatians were Gentiles who emigrated from Gaul into Greece, and so were called Gallo-Greeks. Suidas thinks that these Gauls were Sennonians, who, under the leadership of Brennus, invaded Rome, but being repulsed by Camillus, crossed over into Greece, and were there overthrown by a storm of rain and hail while they were attempting to plunder Delphi—the few, he says, who escaped were called Gallo-Greeks or Galatians. However, Justin (lib. 25), S. Jerome, and others give a different account of them. The Galatians were bounded by Cappadocia on the east, Bithynia on the west, Pamphylia on the south, and the Black Sea on the north. According to Pliny (lib. v. c. ult.), their chief cities were Tanium, Pessinuntis, and Ancyra. Of their language, S. Jerome, in his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (Proem, lib. 2, in fine), says: “Apart from the Greek used by the whole of the East, their proper language is the same as that of the Treviri”—that is, German. Since, then, the Galatians derived their tongue together with their origin from the Gauls, some think that German was the language of these latter, and they add that the Franks proceeded from German Franconia and thence obtained their name. Moreover, Clovis, the first Christian king of the Frankish Gauls, is styled Sicambrian. So did S. Remigius address him when coming to be baptized: “Meekly bow thy neck, O Sicambrian; adore what once thou didst burn; burn what thou once didst adore” (Greg. Tur. de Gestis Franc. lib. 31). Now it is certain that the Sicambrians were Germans. In short, S. Jerome, Josephus, and Isidore lay down that the Galatians were descendants of Gomer, sprung from the Gomari or Cimbri, who were either Germans, or else closely akin to the Germans.

These Galatians some converted Jews had induced to accept a Judaised Gospel, by quoting the example of Peter and other Apostles, who observed the Mosaic Law. Accordingly, S. Paul sharply rebukes them, and calls them back, pointing out that Christians are free from the Old Law, and cannot be subjected to it. Although, he says, the Jews might keep it for a time, so as to give it an honourable burial, yet Gentiles—and such the Galatians were—had not this reason, or any other, for embracing the law of Moses. If, therefore, they had embraced it, they must be supposed to have done so under the belief inculcated by the Judaising Christians, that the law as well as the Gospel was necessary to salvation. This error the Apostle condemns by his declaration, that the profession of Judaism is the overthrowing of Christianity; for the Christian religion holds that Judaism has been done away, and that there is room for no religion save that of Christ, which alone is necessary and sufficient for salvation. This is the error that the Apostle so sharply condemns.

The argument of this Epistle, accordingly, is the same as that of the Epistle to the Romans, of which this may be considered an epitome, and with which it has many ideas and expressions in common, as is pointed out by Jerome, Anselm, Theophylact, and Chrysostom. There is, however, this difference between the two, that in the Epistle to the Romans he opposes both Jews and Gentiles, here Jews only; there he rejects the works of the law as well as the works of nature, here those of the law only, that he may establish the faith of Christ and the works of faith. This, then, occupies the first part of the Epistle, viz., chap. 1 to 5:12; chap. 5:13 to the end is concerned with moral instruction.

Ephrem Syrus, Jerome, Athanasius, Theodoret, and others think that the Epistle was written at Rome; but Chrysostom and Baronius reject this opinion, on the ground that mention of his imprisonment, customary in his other letters from Rome, is wanting in this. They think, therefore, that it was written before the Epistle to the Romans, and at Ephesus, or some other city of Greece. But the time and place of writing can be determined neither from the Epistle itself nor from any external authority; and in this respect it is the most obscure of all S. Paul’s Epistles. S. Jerome and Augustine wrote elaborate commentaries on it, which are still extant.

i. He chides the Galatians for suffering themselves to be seduced to Judaism, from the Gospel preached by him, by innovators and false teachers, against whom he pronounces an anathema.

ii. He shows (ver. 11) the certitude of his Gospel, from the fact that he received it directly from Christ.

iii. He describes (ver. 13) how, from the Judaism which he was vigorously defending, he was converted to Christ, and set apart for the preaching of the Gospel, and how he traversed Arabia, Damascus, Syria, and Cilicia.

Ver. 1.—Paul, an apostle, not of men. That is, because the other Apostles were sent by Christ while still mortal, Paul by Christ when wholly deified, and therefore in every way immortal. So says S. Augustine. But the simpler explanation is to take not of men to mean, not of mere men, but of Christ, man and God.

There is a fourfold mission, says S. Jerome. Some are sent by God alone, as Paul; some by God through man’s instrumentality, as Joshua was through Moses; some by man alone, as those who are promoted by their friends to be abbot, dean, or bishop; some by themselves, as heretics. The preposition “of” (ab) therefore, used here, denotes the principal cause, while “by” (per) denotes the instrumental; for the meaning is that he was not called by man, nor by God by means of man, but immediately by God Himself.

Ver. 4.—Who gave Himself—to be an expiatory victim for an atonement, and to the death of the Cross, that He might pay the price of our redemption.

For our sins. “Righteousness Himself,” says S. Jerome, “gave Himself, that He might destroy the unrighteousness in us; Wisdom gave Himself to undo our foolishness; Holiness and Fortitude offered Himself, that He might blot out our uncleanness and weakness.”

From this present evil world. Why does he call the world evil? The Manichæans reply: Because the world is material, it is evil and the creation of the devil. But this is a foolish reply. The evil world is worldly and carnal life and conversation, such as this world lives, and such as it invites us to; and worldly men are such as by hook or by crook hunt after the goods of this world only—riches, honours, and pleasures. The figure of speech here is a metonymy; the world is put for those who are in, or who are coming into the world. “The whole world lieth in wickedness. Not that the world itself is evil, but that things in the world become evil through men. So says the Apostle himself: Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Sylvan glades become of evil report when they are filled with gins; not that the soil and the trees sin, but because the very places gain notoriety for murder. So the world (seculum, i.e., a period of time, in itself neither good nor evil) is called good or evil through the actions of those who are in it” (S. Jerome in 1 John 5:19).

Note that the word here rendered evil in the Greek, πονηροῦ, is rendered by S. Jerome bad, by Augustine great, by Erasmus crafty or miserable or full of toils, by Vatablus wearisome, especially on account of sins committed in this present life, which affords so many occasions of sin; whereas the future world, to which Christ is leading us, is free from sin and is altogether pure. Valentinus evolved from his own consciousness his own æons or worlds, declaring them to be animated beings, and the parents by quadrads, ogdoads, decads, and dodecads, of as many worlds as the son of Æneas had pigs (S. Jerome).

Ver. 6.—I marvel that ye are so soon removed—from Christianity to Judaism, from the liberty of the Gospel to the slavery of legal ceremonies, from the church to the synagogue. “The allusion,” says S. Jerome, “is to the Hebrew גָּלַל, ‘to roll,’ ” and hints that, “You Galatians are as easily moved as a globe or a wheel, since you suffer yourselves to be so quickly transferred from the Gospel of Christ to the law of Moses.” Elsewhere, however, S. Jerome sees an allusion to γάλα, “milk,” and supposes that the Galatians were so called from the whiteness of their skin.

From Him that called you. You are apostates from the Gospel, nay, from God and Christ Jesus, and that to the greatest injury and contempt of God and Christ, who called you, without any merits of your own, nay, against your demerits, out of His abounding love, into grace, reconciliation, friendship with God, and salvation. S. Jerome reads, by the grace of Christ, instead of into the grace of Christ, and so gets a more forcible rendering: I marvel that ye are so soon removed unto another Gospel from Christ, who called you by His grace, i.e., out of pure love and unmerited good-will towards you; I marvel that ye are so readily become apostates from God and from Christ, who hath called you so graciously and lovingly; that ye are so ungrateful, so heedless of His love, that ye trample on it.

Unto another gospel. Unto another doctrine about salvation, and your Saviour Christ, as though mine and Christ’s were not sufficient, as though Moses must be taken into partnership with Christ, and the ceremonial law wedded to the Gospel. For even if these Judaisers preach that the Gospel is to be embraced together with the Mosaic law, yet they thereby preach another Gospel, and destroy the true Gospel preached by Paul. For, according to him, the true Gospel of Christ is this: The law of Christ is necessary and sufficient to salvation, nor can any other be admitted. Whoever introduces or allows to be introduced any other, is injurious to Christ and His law, as implying that it is insufficient, and he, therefore, robs Christ, his only Redeemer, of His glory, and brings in another Saviour. This is what the Judaisers did. They declared the insufficiency of the law of Christ by adding to it the law of Moses as requisite for salvation and bliss. Hence they overturned the Gospel by introducing another, nay, a contrary Gospel. Therefore the Apostle proceeds,

Ver. 7.—Which is not another. S. Jerome and Ephrem omit another, and interpret the clause: “You transfer yourselves to another Gospel, which indeed is no Gospel.” The meaning of the received text is “You transfer yourselves to another Gospel, which still is not another; for there is no other true Gospel save that which I have preached unto you.” To which Ephrem adds: “But as they are, so is it.” As their teachers are apostates, Judaisers, deceitful liars, so is their Gospel heretical, Judaising, deceitful, and false. If the Judaisers, who left the Gospel and teaching of Paul and the Church intact, overturned the Gospel and the Church of Christ, much more do the Protestants overturn it by introducing new dogmas contrary to the Catholic Church.

Unless there are some. This depends on I marvel. I marvel that ye so soon fall away from the Gospel, unless it be that there are some who are troubling you. And when I think this I partly cease to marvel, and I impute your defection to them rather than to you; for you would not have fallen away, if you had not been enticed and deceived.

That trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. To pervert is to subvert, according to Chrysostom. Properly, however, it is to invert, or to turn, as when the outside of a garment is turned inside because it is worn, and the less worn inside becomes the outside. Or, as Jerome says, when what is in front is put behind, and vice versâ. So the Church is like a garment of which the part in front or outside, and now somewhat worn thread-bare, was the old Church or the synagogue, with its Mosaic law, while the after part, or inner and sounder, is the new Church with Christ’s Gospel. This Christ so changed round that He substituted the inward for the worn outward side, so making the after or the inner part, viz., the Gospel, the front or the outer, and putting it before all, to be known and adopted as the robe of righteousness and salvation. These self-appointed teachers wished to turn again this garment inside out, and to put the law first, and to subordinate to it the Gospel—in short, to exchange the spirit of piety breathed forth by the Gospel for Jewish ceremonies. So the Judaisers perverted, i.e., inverted the Gospel of Christ by substituting for it the law of Moses, and setting that before the Gospel (S. Jerome).

Ver. 8.—But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. Understand: If that can be done; for, as a matter of fact, it is impossible, for the angels are established as in bliss so in all truth. It is an hyperbole, like that in 1 Cor.13:1: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels.” S. Jerome quotes here a happy remark of Tertullian directed against Apelles and his virgin Philumena, which latter was filled by some perverse angel with an evil spirit, to the effect that this was an angel who, long before Apelles was born, was described as accursed by the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Apostle. Such was the angel who taught Luther, and instructed Zwingli on the Eucharist, and about whom the latter writes, that he did not know whether it was black or white. But it is certain that it was a black angel, and that against it was directed the Apostle’s anathema, as against one introducing a new Gospel, a new faith, and new dogmas, contrary to the accepted creed.

Observe how great is the certainty of the faith preached by the Apostles, confirmed by God by so many signs and miracles, and transmitted to us by the continuous tradition of so many centuries, and reflect how firm and constant in it we should be. So much so that we may better deny the evidence of our senses, of our reason, of the authority of all men and angels—even if they should work miracles as proof,—impossible though this really is—than deny the teaching of faith. For faith rests on the original revelation of God, who is the First and Incommutable Truth; all else may deceive and be deceived. Nay, to state an impossibility, if God were to reveal a faith contrary to that which we have received, and which He originally revealed Himself, we should be bound to believe the first, and not the second. For if He should reveal one contrary, He would be changed and would cease to be God, and the First and Infallible Truth; but since this is impossible, it follows that God cannot give a contrary revelation, and hence that those who teach contrary doctrine get it not from God but from their own heads, or else by revelation from devils.

We have here, then, a canon of faith given us by the Apostle, to this effect: If a new dogma arise anywhere, let it be examined to see whether it agree with the ancient, received faith of the Catholic Church, first preached by Paul and the Apostles; if it be found discordant, let it be regarded as heretical and accursed. This is a canon followed by all the Fathers.

If any dispute arise,” says Irenæus, “about any, even a small question, will it not be our duty to have recourse to the oldest churches, and to gather from them what is clear and certain with reference to the question in dispute?” (Adv. Hær. lib. iii. c. x.).

So Tertullian: “I will lay it down as a canon that what the Apostles preached, what Christ revealed, ought not to be proved except by the same churches which the Apostles themselves founded. If this is so, it is clear that all doctrine which agrees with those Apostolic churches, being the very wombs and originals of the faith, must be put down as true, and all the rest condemned as false, without further examination” (de Præs. xxi.).

And again: “What is earlier in tradition is shown by its very date to be the Lord’s and to be true; what has come in later is an importation and false” (Ibid. c. xxxi.). So Origen: “Every one is to be counted a heretic who, while professing to believe in Christ, believes in a matter of faith otherwise than the traditional definition of the Church declares” (Hom. in S. Matth. 19).

This same rule is supported by Vincent of Lerins in his golden treatise on Præscription, against the impious novelties of heretics: “Antiquity is to be followed, novelty spurned. When certain innovators were going throughout provinces and cities, offering their errors for sale, and had arrived among the Galatians; and when the Galatians had given them a hearing, and were taken with a distaste for the truth, so much so that they, as it were, vomited the manna of apostolic and Catholic teaching, and were delighted with the filth of heretical novelty, then the authority of the apostolic power made itself heard in these stern words: ‘Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. What is this that he saith: ‘Though we?’—why not, rather, ‘Though I?’ He means: ‘Though Peter, though Andrew, though John—indeed, though the whole college of Apostles preach unto you anything beside what we have preached, let them be accursed.’ An awful pronouncement! It is but a little thing to spare neither himself nor the other Apostles, so as to secure the firm continuance of the faith first preached. But he adds: ‘Though an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.’ It was not enough to bind men to preserve the faith delivered them—he must also bind angels. ‘Though we,’ he says, ‘or an angel from heaven.’ Not that the holy and heavenly angels can sin; bat supposing it were possible that they should, if any one of them were to attempt to change the faith once delivered, let him be accursed” (lib. i. c. 12).

So S. John Damascene, who, like a roaring lion, attacked the iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian: “Hearken, ye peoples, tribes, tongues—men, women, boys, old men, young men, infants, the whole army of Christian saints: ‘Though any one preach unto you anything beside that which the Catholic Church has received from the Holy Apostles, from the Fathers and Councils, and has preserved to this day, hear him not, nor follow the counsel of the serpent, as Eve did, who thereby drew upon herself death. Though an angel, though a king preach unto you anything beside what you have received, stop your ears. For I fear lest the warning of Paul be fulfilled, ‘Let him be accursed’ ” (Orat. 2 de Imagin.). He ends thus be cause he knew that it was the prerogative of Bishops, not of monks, of whom he was one, to pronounce anathema, as Baronius acutely notes (Ann. A.D. 730, in fine). So S. Augustine: “I do not accept what the Blessed Cyprian held on the baptism of heretics, because the Church, for whom Cyprian shed his blood, does not accept it” (contra Cresconium, lib. ii. c. 31, 32). And the other Fathers follow him, and the reason they do so is clear. It is because the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Whoever, therefore, following his own imaginations, teaches any new thing against her mind and doctrines, errs and strays from the home of truth and from truth itself, as S. Augustine urges in a fine dilemma. “Answer,” he says—“Did the Church come to an end or not?” (i.e., when Donatus arose). “Choose which you like. If she had come to an end, who was the mother who bore Donatus? If, on the other hand, she could not have come to an end while so many had been gathered into her without your baptism, tell me, I pray you, what madness was it which induced the followers of Donatus to withdraw themselves from her, as if they were so avoiding communion with the wicked” (contra Gaudentium, lib. ii. c. 8).

In the same way I will now conclude as follows: On the rise of Luther, Calvin, Menno, and other Protestants, either the Church and the true faith came to an end or they did not. For these two—the true Church and the true faith—are necessarily connected, so much so that if in a single point, say the Invocation of Saints, the Church were to leave the track of the true faith, she must become heretical, and the Church, not of God but of Satan; just as any individual who maintains a single heresy, even though he be otherwise orthodox, is a heretic. I repeat, therefore, when Calvin arose, either the Church came to an end or she did not; if she did, and had not existed since the time of Gregory the Great, as the Protestants say, then the Church had been extinct for 900 years, that is to say, the world for 900 years was without true faith, true religion, sacraments, Church, and salvation; therefore for 900 years Christ deserted His Bride; therefore the Eternal Kingdom of Christ had fallen, for Christ reigns in His Church; therefore the gates of hell had prevailed against His Church; therefore Calvin was born outside the Church, was no member of the Church, but an unbeliever, a heretic, or a pagan; therefore he had not claim to be received by the people, by the world, and listened to as one of the faithful, but he should have been despised and rejected as an unbeliever not belonging to the Church. If, however, the Church had not come to an end, and Calvin was born, baptized, educated, and brought up in the true Church—then, since he was born, baptized, educated, and brought up in the Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church, that Church was clearly a true Church, holding the true faith. Therefore, when he withdrew from her, and shut himself up in his new dogmas, he separated himself from the true faith and from the Church, and became an apostate. Therefore, when he established another and a reformed Church, it was not a true, apostolic, but an apostate, schismatical, heretical Church that he founded—a mistress and school, not of the faith, but of new doctrines and heresies. Let a fair-minded reader, who sincerely seeks in ignorance the true faith, outside which no one can be saved, consider and weigh the force of this dilemma, and ask himself whether there is any escape from its conclusions, whether the rule here given is not a touchstone of what is true in doctrine and in faith.

Any other gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. The Protestants hence conclude: Therefore the decrees of councils and the canons of pontiffs are accursed, because they contain many things not in the Gospel, and are consequently a Gospel other than that preached.

I reply: Other (præterquam) is here what is contrary to the accepted faith, such as are the doctrines of heretics.

1. This appears, firstly, because Paul is writing against the Judaisers, who were trying to introduce Judaism beside (prœter), that is, against the Gospel. It was just as if any one were to try to add Calvinism or Mohammedanism to Christianity. He would be introducing a new law and society beside, i.e., against Christianity. Accordingly, in ver. 6, he calls this another Gospel, and in ver. 7 he says that the preachers of it prevert, or, as Chrysostom styles it, overturn the Gospel of Christ.

2. It is clear and certain that not only an angel but Paul himself knew more, and consequently might have preached more truths than he did (2 Cor. 12:1 and 6).

3. Paul constantly orders, as Christ did, the commands of Apostles and superiors to be obeyed (Acts 16:4; Heb. 13:17).

4. Moreover, Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Œcumenius explain the phrase as I have done. In 1 Cor. 2 the Apostle uses παρὰ (præter) in the sense of against, when he writes: “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ; for he would set up another Christ, just as one who makes another Pope sets up an anti-Pope, or he who invites another king into a kingdom sets up an enemy of the true king and a tyrant. Similarly, in Rom 11:24: “If thou wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive-tree”—contrary to nature is παρὰ φύσιν (præter naturam). Even in Latin we often use the same meiosis. For example, Terence (Anâria) says, “Præter civium morem atque legem,” i e., against law and custom. So, too, in Greek, as, e.g., Aristotle (de Cælo, lib. i. c. 1) says παρὰ φύσιν, beside, i.e., against nature; παρὰ νόμον, beside, i.e., against law.

With this compare Deut. 4:2: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.” Ye shall not add to the precepts which I shall give you anything contradictory of them, especially, ye shall not add the worship of some new deity, for this the whole chapter, and indeed the whole Book of Deuteronomy, intends to forbid. Nor shall ye add, in the sense of saying that your words are mine; for to no one is it allowed to put forth his own writings or commands, as the commands of God or as the Holy Scriptures.

There is a similar phrase in Rev. 22:18: “I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.” As a matter of fact, prophets and Apostles have added many things to this Scripture. Nay, Moses, in Deut. 4:2, would contradict himself in Deut. 17:12, where he orders the words of the priest to be obeyed. Accordingly S. Augustine excellently explains this passage: “The Apostle does not say, ‘More than you have received,’ but, ‘Beside that which you have received.’ For if he had used the former phrase, he would condemn himself for saying that he wished to come to the Thessalonians to supply what was wanting to their faith. But he who supplies what is lacking merely adds, he does not take away what is already there. He, however, who oversteps the rule of faith does not approach the goal in the road, but departs from the road” (Tract. in Joan. 99).

You will say perhaps: “Why, then, did the Apostle not say against instead of beside?” Chrysostom’s answer is that he wanted to make it clear that any is accursed who even indirectly undermines the least important doctrine of the Gospel. But there is another reason, and that is, the Judaisers, against whom this passage is primarily directed, were introducing their Judaism beside the Gospel, i.e., their Jewish rites and sacraments, which by this very attempt became contrary to the Gospel and the New Law of Christ, as I said before.

We preach. I.e., by word or by writing. He does not, therefore, exclude, but rather includes traditions given by word of mouth only, for these he expressly orders to be observed in 2 Thess. 2:14.

Accursed. Heb. cherem. See comment on this word under Rom. 9:3.

Ver. 10.—Do I now persuade men, or God? Theophylact, Vatablus, and Erasmus explain this to mean: “Am I now persuading you to human things or to Divine?”—as though the Apostle were showing, not the persons he was addressing, but his subject-matter, i.e., what he is putting forward to be believed. For the Judaisers were boasting that they followed Peter, John, James, who, by their example, seemed to teach the observance of the Old Law. In contrast to them Paul exclaims that he follows not men, or the doctrine of men, but God and His doctrine, and persuades others to do the same. It is from God that I have received what I have preached, and therefore I preach not human things, but Divine.

There is a second interpretation, which is not amiss, whatever Beza may say, which has S. Chrysostom’s support: “Am I pleading a cause before men or before God?” For the word persuade (πείθειν) is a forensic term, and implies a cause pleaded before judges. Hence S. Augustine interprets it here to mean, “I desire to render myself approved,” and S. Ambrose renders it by I satisfy. When this Greek term is used in the sense of persuade, it is, as Beza admits, followed by an accusative of the person. Persuade is then here used in the sense of an inchoate act, “I try to persuade,” according to my canon 32.

That this sense is the more apt appears: (1.) Because to persuade God and men is a phrase referring rather to the men persuaded than to the subject-matter—this last interpretation would make the sentence obscure and involved. (2.) Because the next clause illustrates this when it says, “Or do I seek to please men?” which implies that as he does not seek to please men, so he does not seek to persuade them. So S. Jerome says that “any one is said to persuade when he tries to instil into others what he has himself imbibed and still keeps.”

The sense then is this: I, Paul, speak so boldly and sincerely, and denounce a curse on Jadaisers and all who preach another Gospel, because, although I once contended vigorously against the Gospel on behalf of Jews and their religion, yet now, illuminated by the Gospel-light, it is not to men, least of all to Jews, that I do my best to approve myself and my Gospel, but to God, whom alone I seek to please, that I may give a true and good account before His tribunal. In other words, I do not care what the Jews or others think of me, as being too bigoted, or an enemy of my country and its religion, for I seek to please God alone. Formerly I pleased them but displeased Him; and if I wished now to please them, I should again displease Him, for I should be establishing the law of Moses and destroying the grace of Christ.

If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. S. Jerome and Anselm remark that the desire to please men is a vice whereby a man so yields to others, so seeks their favour and good-will, that he is prepared to break the law of God and offend Him. But whoever seeks to please men, in such a way and with such an end in view as to lead them to God and His service, seeks not so much to please men as God. S. Augustine says: “A man does not please others to any useful end, save when he is pleasing for God’s sake; i.e., when it is God in him that pleases and is glorified, as when it is His gifts in a man that are regarded, or that are received through man’s instrumentality. For when a man is pleasing in this way, it is not now man that is pleasing but God.” So S. Paul says, in 1 Cor. 9:19–22, that he is made all things to all men, that he might gain all to Christ. S. Chrysostom, in his Hom. 29 in Epist. 2 ad Corin., remarks how useless and contemptible are the favour and good report of this world; and S. Jerome devoutly and stoutly wrote to Asella, that he thanked God for being worthy of the world’s hatred.

Ver. 11.—The Gospel which was preached of me is not after man. It is not a human but a Divine Gospel; it is not man’s but God’s, or, as Ephrem puts it, it is not from man, i.e., it does not spring from man’s opinions or from man’s invention, but from God. Hence he adds:

Ver. 12.—For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. Viz., when I was carried by Him into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:1).

Ver. 13.—I persecuted the Church of God and wasted it. That is, I did my best to storm it and overturn it. Cf. Ps. 129:1, 2. The word translated waste here comes, as some think, from a word denoting the burning of a town by an enemy, or else, as Erasmus held, from one denoting the surrounding of it. Either way Paul’s meaning is clear. He says this to remove from himself all suspicion of hatred of the Jews. Though they inveigh against me, he says, as their foe, yet my past life is sufficient answer. For I am myself a Jew, and fought more vigorously for Judaism than they, before God, by His call, changed my heart and enlightened it by faith in Christ.

Ver. 14.—In mine own nation being more exceedingly zealous. A more eager lover and follower; or better still, a more jealous lover of it, on behalf of the national institution, handed down to me from my ancestors; a zealot of the law though through ignorance. So much more when he knew the truth was he zealous for the Gospel, so expiating his former evil zeal. From this it seems that Paul’s eager zeal was greater than that of his contemporaries, and acted as a handmaid and whetstone of virtue to him. For an eager nature does not creep along the ground, but, like a fire, leaps upwards and attempts to overcome all difficulties. On this, S. Augustine has some excellent remarks: “Souls that are capable of virtue and expansive often give birth to vices first, by which they show the virtue they are most adapted to produce, when they have been carefully disciplined. For instance, the hasty feeling which prompted Moses to revenge the wrong done to his brother in Egypt by a cruel Egyptian was indeed vicious, inasmuch as it overstepped the bounds of authority, but yet it gave great promise for the future. So in the case of Saul, when he was persecuting the Church, when God called to him out of heaven, smote him to the ground, lifted him up, drew him into the Church, he was as it were cut down, pruned, sown in the ground, and fertilised; for his very fierceness in persecuting the Gospel out of jealousy for the traditions of his fathers, thereby thinking that he was doing God service, was, like a vicious woodland growth, but a sign of great power” (contra Faustum, lib. xxii. c. 70).

Ver. 15.—But when it pleased God. Vatablus has, “When it seemed good to God,” which is too weak a rendering of εὐδόκησεν, a word that denotes the free call of God’s love to grace and salvation.

Who separated me from my mother’s womb. Of His loving-kindness He separated me from my mother’s womb, and caused me to be born into this world with this object in view, viz., to reveal His Son in me. Before all merit, and when not yet born, He predestined me; and when predestined, separated me from the womb, and caused me to be born; and when born He called me that He might bring me to the knowledge of Christ and His Gospel, and so to the apostleship, that I might preach Christ to the Gentiles.

S. Jerome remarks that the same thing is said of Jeremiah in Jer. 1:5: “Before I found thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Paul here alludes to this, for Jeremiah was a type of Paul. The Hebrew for sanctified denotes both sanctified and separated; for that is called sacred which is separated from father, mother, and all earthly things to be dedicated and consecrated to God. So Paul was separated by God’s predestination from his mother’s womb, and consecrated to the Gospel, to be a prophet and teacher of the Gentiles.

Mystically, says S. Anselm, from my mother’s womb denotes “from the darkness of the synagogue to see the light of the Gospel.”

Observe that segregatus, “separated,” denotes one selected (e grege) out of the flock, as the predestinate are selected by God out of the flock of men. So much more is an Apostle and Herald of the word of God separated from the many; and, as S. Chrysostom says, he ought to excel the many as a shepherd excels his flock. It was for this reason that the prophet exclaims, in Isa. 6:5: “Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Woe is me! for I am nothing better than others, who are merely unholy themselves. See the comment on Rom. 1:1.

Ver. 16.—To reveal His Son in me. In my soul. The phrase is a Hebraism. He says in me rather than to me, to denote that he had received no bare revelation by ear or eye, but that in his inmost heart he had so entirely drunk in Christ and His teaching and Spirit that Christ was in him and spoke by him (Theophylact). Secondly, Jerome and Vatablus understand it, “To reveal His Son through me.” Thirdly, Jerome has another interpretation more subtle than literal: “He does not say to me but in me, because Christ was already in Paul. For there were in him the principle of all virtues and of God, and the seeds of faith. These, however, he did not recognise, nor believe in them till God revealed them in him as being in his heart.”

I conferred not with flesh and blood. I joined myself to no one; I conferred with no one about my vocation, or the revelation, or the way to act on it; I called into counsel no relations or any one else; but, knowing of a certainty that I had been called and taught by God, I followed God as my only teacher and leader. The word rendered confer denotes, says Budæus, to communicate secrets and counsels, to go to one’s friends as counsellors and upright judges, that they may approve or disapprove, advise or dissuade, as they see fit.

Flesh and blood denotes, by synecdoche, the whole man consisting of these two elements. Cf. S. Matt. 16:17. I was not taught the Gospel, says S. Paul, by any man, for I conferred with none, but by revelation from God alone. See, then, O Galatians, how by rejecting it, and tainting it with an admixture of Judaism, you are tainting and rejecting the word of God, and even God Himself, who revealed it to me, that I might go and preach it.

It may be said: Why, then, did Paul afterwards go to Jerusalem to see Peter (ver. 18), and what is more, confer with him about the Gospel? I reply: He did not confer with him as though in doubt or imperfectly instructed, but that the faithful whom he taught might know him to be in communion with Peter and the other Apostles, to hold the same faith as they, that so they might give more credence to his preaching of the Gospel.

Jerome, however, refers the word immediately to the preceding clause, thus: “To reveal him immediately in the Gentiles I conferred not with flesh and blood.” “Since I was ordered by God immediately to preach to the Gentiles, I immediately obeyed, so that I took no counsel with any man. Afterwards, however, I did confer with Peter, James, and John.” The first explanation, however, is better. Or it may be rendered: I did not see, I did not cling to my earthly parents and relations, but, loving them, I followed the call of God (Augustine and Œcumenius).

Morally, he follows S. Paul’s example who is called by God to the apostleship, to religion, to evangelical perfection, to heroic works, and does not yield to flesh and blood, but at once departs to gain that to which he feels himself called. S. Jerome writes to Heliodorus: “O delicate soldier, what do you in your father’s house? Where is the rampart, the fosse, the winter spent under tents? Call to mind the day of your enlistment, when you were buried with Christ in baptism, when you took your military oath that for His name you would spare neither father nor mother. Lo! the adversary is trying to slay Christ in your breast. Lo! the camp of the enemy is thirsting for the donative which you received when you started on your warfare. What, though a little grandson hang on your neck; though your mother, with dishevelled hair and garments rent, bare the breasts which suckled you; though your father lie on the threshold: go forth, trampling on his body, and with dry eyes hasten to the banner of the Cross. Filial piety demands that in this you be cruel.… The love of God and the fear of hell will easily break your fetters. If they believe in Christ, let them assist me who am about to fight for His name. If they do not, let the dead bury their dead.”

Again, he writes to that noble widow, Furia: “The father will be sorrowful, but Christ will rejoice; the family will mourn, but there will be joy among the angels. Let your father do what he will with your goods. It is not he for whom you were born, but Christ, for whom you have been born again, who has redeemed you at a great price, even His own blood, of whom you have to think. Beware of nurses and bearers and venomous animals of that sort, who seek to fill their bellies with your husks. They advise not what is for your good but their own.”

S. Bernard too, preaching on the text, “Lo, we have left all,” says: “How many does the accursed wisdom of the world overcome, and extinguish the fire kindled in them, which the Lord had wished to see burn fiercely! Do nothing, it says, in a hurry: take plenty of time to think over it; it is an important step that you are proposing to take; you had better try first what you can do, and consult your friends, lest you come afterwards to be sorry for your action. This wisdom of the world is earthly, sensual, devilish, the foe of salvation, the destroyer of life, the mother of lust, and abominable unto the Lord.”

Ver. 17.—Neither went I up to Jerusalem. But Acts 9:26 represents Paul as flying directly after his conversion from Damascus to Jerusalem. Jerome and Lorinus, when commenting on that passage, say that he went to Jerusalem directly after his conversion, because compelled to seek safety in flight, not that he might see Peter and confer with him about the Gospel, for this latter is all that is denied here. Baronius replies differently, that Paul is not said directly after his conversion to have gone to Jerusalem, but after many days, i.e., after three years, spent partly in Arabia, partly in Damascus. After that he came to see Peter, as is said here (ver. 18), and afterwards went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia (ver. 21). With this agrees Acts 9:30, where it is said that the brethren brought him down to Cæsarea and sent him forth to Tarsus, which is the metropolis of Cilicia. If this be the true explanation, then S. Luke, in Acts 9., passes over the journey of Paul into Arabia, because in it nothing calling for mention had happened.

Both explanations are tenable. But the fear of the Apostles and the sponsorship of Barnabas (Acts 9:26, 27) favour the former. It is not likely that the miraculous conversion of Paul could for three years have remained unknown to the Apostles and the rest of the faithful at Jerusalem. If this be correct, then we must, with S. Chrysostom, marvel at the grace of God which so suddenly changed so bitter a persecutor as S. Paul was into a public teacher and a disputer with the Jews.

Ver. 18.—Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter. Chrysostom and Theophylact remark on the distinction between ἰδεῖν and the word ἱστορῆσαι, used here. This latter is used of those who visit and go round splendid cities, like Rome, and carefully inspect its monuments, its Pontiff, its Cardinals, its clergy, and holy men. I came to Jerusalem, says S. Paul, to see Peter, not to learn anything from him (though Erasmus thinks that ἱστορῆσαι connotes this), for I had been taught from above, but merely to see and pay my respect to the chief of the Apostles (Theodoret, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome). In Gal. 2:2 Paul gives another reason for his visit.

S. Chrysostom writes: “Peter was the chief and the mouth of the Apostles, and therefore Paul went up to see him especially” (Hom. in Joan. 87). And S. Jerome on this passage: “Paul came to see Peter—not to gaze on his eyes, cheeks, and countenance—to see if he was fat or lean, if he had a hooked or a straight nose, whether he had hair on his head, or was (as Clement relates) bald headed. Nor is it to be supposed consistent with apostolical dignity, that after such a preparation of three years he should wish to see anything in Peter that was merely human. Paul saw Cephas with those same eyes with which he himself is seen still by those who have power to see him. If this does not seem clear to any one, let him compare this sentence with the one before, in which it is said that the Apostles conferred nothing on him. For he went to Jerusalem, that he might see an Apostle, not to learn anything from him—for both had the same authority for their preaching—but to do honour to one who was an Apostle before him.” From this it is clear that Paul did not see Peter that he might be taught by him, as Erasmus and Vatablus think. For this is contradicted by Gal. 2:6: “They added nothing to me,” and by Gal. 1:11, 12, where he expressly says that he had been taught not by man but by God.

Ver. 19.—But other of the apostles saw I none save James the Lord’s brother. I.e., a cousin or relation of Christ’s, for the Hebrews call cousins brothers. S. Jerome adds that S. James was called the Lord’s brother before all the Apostles, even those related to Christ, on account of his lofty character, his incomparable faith and wisdom, which made him seem like a brother to Christ. For the same reason he was surnamed the Just. Secondly, S. Jerome says that Christ, when going to His Father, commended to James, as to a brother, the eldest children of His mother, i.e., those in Judæa who believed on Him; for this James, the son of Alphæus, the son of Mary, wife of Cleophas, one of the twelve Apostles, was the first Bishop of Jerusalem. This is why, in the First Council of Jerusalem, he was the first after Peter to pronounce judgment (Acts 15:13). A Canonical Epistle of his is extant.

S. Jerome hints both here and in his book on Ecclesiastical Writers, when writing of James, that this James was not of the twelve Apostles, but was called an Apostle, only because he had seen Christ and preached Him. In this case we have three of the name of James—the brother of John, slain by Herod; the son of Alphæus, both of whom were Apostles; and this brother of the Lord. But since this brother of the Lord is called an Apostle, and there is no cogent reason for distinguishing him from James the Apostle and son of Alphæus, when, indeed, there are many reasons why we should identify them, the first opinion seems the better one.

Ver. 20.—Before God I lie not. Vatablus paraphrases this verse: “What I write unto you, behold I write before God—I lie not;” and Theophylact agrees with him. But Ambrose and Augustine think that before God is a formal oath—I call God to witness. The Apostle asserts that he had not seen the other Apostles so strenuously that no one might be able to say that he had visited them in secret, and had not been taught by God (Jerome).

Ver. 22.—And was unknown by face. The Christians in Judæa had not seen my face. He says this, says Chrysostom, to prove that he had not taught in Judæa, nor preached circumcision and the Old Law, as the Judaisers alleged he had done.

Which were in Christ—in His faith and religion; which were Christians. See my canon 37.








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